The One About the Dead Man in Laurel Canyon

There’s a joke about Los Angeles, once told by someone famous, repeated by someone less famous, then told countless more times by people not-at-all famous that even a Google search can’t determine its origin. Don’t come to Los Angeles unless you’re invited. That’s how it was paraphrased to me by someone who thought they were invited. We laughed then, even though the joke is not very funny until you realize that the joke is not a joke until you get the punchline.

The Dead Man in Laurel Canyon wears a chunky silver Rolex. He hugs the steering wheel of his Range Rover, his bare arms a milky purple that would be pretty in a child’s bedroom. The birds are awake in the Canyon, and at one point, the Dead Man sits up, places his hands on the steering wheel, and falls forward.

I’d been thinking about leaving. I’d been thinking how there’s something about out here. Before long, it’s a new January, and you’re hungover with heartache for a man you won’t see for several years until he pops up on that very popular, critically-acclaimed sitcom with that actress you learned to like, then hate, then feign indifference about. My friend keeps texting, asking if I saw the show. She doesn’t know I let him fuck me twice without a condom.

A Canyon woman with an over-groomed Shih Tzu taps on my window. She’s worried the Dead Man, his Range Rover still running, will hit the gas.

The Canyon woman calls for an ambulance. White, male, unresponsive, she tells them.

I ask her if she’s a nurse or an EMT.

I was on CSI a few times, she says. The good one.

About the author

Lauren Barbato is a writer based in Philadelphia, where she's currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Religion at Temple University. Her fiction and nonfiction have…

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Issue 25 - Spring 2022

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